Take note of these seven pros who are making their mark in the meetings and events industry. Colorado Meetings + Events is proud to introduce our 2020 Hall of Fame inductees, who are among the state's most creative, dedicated and passionate individuals. Our editorial advisory board, composed of 15 industry representatives from around the staste, nominated and selected this year's inductees for their commitment and unique contributions. Now in its 13th year, the Hall of Fame has 90 distinguished members. 

Ellen Collins, CMP, Associate Director of Global Group Sales 
Vail Resorts Meetings & Events 
Lifetime Achievement 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1990, and a friend encouraged her to consider the hotel industry
  • Hired as coordinator of the sales team and promoted to sales manager by Swissôtel Boston
  • Moved onto national sales manager position at Loews Anatole Hotel in Texas
  • In 1995, moved to Denver as director of sales and marketing for Loews Denver Hotel
  • Joined Vail Resorts and RockResorts at their headquarters in 2005 and sells the portfolio of luxury resorts and destinations under the Vail Resorts umbrella
  • Active member of industry associations and Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and recently began two-year term as president of Destination Colorado

BEST THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
“Every day is different and filled with possibility. This industry blends the opportunity to build relationships, promote face-to-face experiences, elevate education, create and design settings and curriculums, and grow both personally and within a team dynamic.” She adds, “Meetings and events encourage participants to have a growth mindset as most meetings have common-thread goals of creating synergy, innovative thinking and engagement.”

HOPES, DREAMS AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
“I hope that our industry continues to thrive and that we become better storytellers of why meetings are important. When people come together we change for the better. Perspectives are shared, ideas are sparked. We collaborate, we grow, we create the future. A better future.”

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY
Collins emphasizes the importance of being kind and volunteering for projects. “Dabble in cross-functional areas to find out what you like and to connect the dots between departments. Look for gaps and find solutions. Raise your hand, get involved, seek mentors within and outside of our industry. Take on stretch roles and hobbies. Travel, learn, lead and enjoy the ride.”

WAYS THE INDUSTRY HAS EVOLVED
“Online word-of-mouth and experiential imagery are drawing customers to destinations around the world, and people want to be able to buy in two clicks 24-hours a day. Relationships remain relevant and important as customers like to connect with another human being, especially when making big conference investments for their company or association.”

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Kimberle Rupert, Director, Global Accounts 
HelmsBriscoe
Best Meeting Professional 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Began working life as an EMT with Vail Valley Medical Center
  • Needing more family-friendly work hours, shifted to a hospitality-related area as director of a team that served owners at a vacation property in Avon
  • Assumed responsibilities for public relations and event planning in hospitality and tourism
  • Ran her own meetings and events business successfully for several years
  • Accepted a position with HelmsBriscoe in Denver more than 12 years ago

BEST THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
“For me, working in a field of business in which success depends on building productive human relationships is a natural fit. … Understanding what clients really want to accomplish is a challenge I have always relished. Beyond that essential discovery process, it’s turning objectives into actionable elements of a successful program and ultimately seeing a client happy.”

HOPES, DREAMS AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
“Personally, it’s continuing to see the mixture of excitement, delight and relief on the face of a client whose event just went off with stellar success. For the industry as a whole, I am hugely confident that, within an environment of increasing virtualization of communication and relationships, the place of humans  gathering  together can only become more important.”

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY
First, Rupert recommends considering deep down why you want to be in this business. “If it’s not primarily because of its human dimension, this might not be the best sector for you to spend your energies on.” She also suggests learning from experienced and successful practitioners, maintaining humility, working hard, getting involved and volunteering. Rupert emphasizes, “Mentors will step forward to help those that show themselves worthy  of the advice and guidance.”

WAYS THE INDUSTRY HAS EVOLVED
“Technology has extended our ability to reach clients wherever they’re located and to communicate through more time-efficient  channels. But after a decade of social media frenzy, I think many practitioners are recognizing that however convenient some of the new tools have proven to be, we must never lose sight of being an industry focused on people first. When it comes to uncovering clients’ objectives and to  building confidence and trust, there’s no substitute for people meeting together in the same physical space and communicating one to another.”

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Rachel Massman, Conference & Event Manager 
Housing Colorado
Up-and-Coming Meeting Professional 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • After graduating from University of Missouri-Columbia, started working at St. Louis Marriott West as a sales and catering admin, eventually becoming a sales manager there and at Millennium Hotel St. Louis
  • Upon moving to Colorado in 2012, worked in sales for Magnolia Denver and Courtyard by Marriott Denver Cherry Creek
  • Transitioned into the planner side in 2014, first as membership and events manager for Colorado Safety Association and now with much larger events at Housing Colorado in Denver
  • Currently involved with CSAE on the membership committee

BEST THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
“Hands down it’s the relationships. It’s great to bond with meeting  professionals, suppliers and anyone else involved in our crazy industry over shared stories of success and opportunities for improvement. I wouldn’t be the meeting professional I am today without support from this tight-knit community.”

HOPES, DREAMS AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
“I am so excited that my meeting and events future is wide open. I would love to broaden my horizons and plan for a national organization with events all over the United States. I also would like to pass my knowledge on to others new to the industry and give back like those who came before me did.”

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY
Massman offers a simple equation: Networking = Success. “I wouldn’t be the planner I am today without the network I have made along the way. If you are interested at all in meeting planning or events, I would recommend getting involved with an industry association and join a committee or find some way to volunteer your time. The more connections you have the better!”

WAYS THE INDUSTRY HAS EVOLVED
“The use of social media and event-specific apps has really changed the way we communicate with attendees. It has allowed us to present information in real time, streamline communication and eliminate waste. In 2020, we are eliminating a printed directory for the first time in the 32-year history of our conference thanks to the use of our conference app.”

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Clem Connolly, National Director of Special Events (Western Region)
National Jewish Health
Best Special Events Professional 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • After graduating from St. Mary’s University in London, worked at the Bath and Racquets Club in London and managed a health club in Beverly Hills
  • Moved to Colorado and found himself in marketing and PR for children’s radio in 1993
  • Radio opened the door to KWGN-TV WB2 and orchestrating events
  • Entered the nonprofit world and worked at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and American Heart Association
  • Returned to radio through a business development job for CBS Radio and later established a small agency, GPS Advertising
  • Joined National Jewish Health in 2012 and now orchestrates the organization’s fundraising events around the country

BEST THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
“Events come in all different shapes and sizes, and each one presents new challenges. I love the camaraderie aspect of my job working with our special events team, volunteers and vendors. It takes a village, and I am enormously grateful to be working alongside such talented people.”

HOPES, DREAMS AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
“Regarding events at National Jewish Health, we want to continue evolving. We have an
amazing special events team and some very exciting new ideas in the works, which
we are eager to roll out in the future. … The more people we can reach and tell our story
through events, the better.”

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY
“You are only good as your next event,” Connolly says. “Listen intently to a client’s
wants and needs and don’t be frightened to ask lots of questions. Your client’s senses are in play and fully engaged from the moment they arrive at your event to the moment they exit, so make the experience count. As you plan, walk through your event and ask yourself, what do I see, hear, feel, taste and touch?”

WAYS THE INDUSTRY HAS EVOLVED
“Mobile ticketing and registration is establishing a higher touch point with event attendees and makes for closer communication pre- and post-event, which creates potential marketing opportunities down the road.” He adds, “Companies are now able to track individual behavior toward entertainment, culinary decisions, beverage choices and other eventrelated activities. This is invaluable data to customize a marketing strategy to bring that customer back.”

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Brad Porter, Conference Services Manager
Halcyon, a hotel in Cherry Creek 
Up-and-Coming Special Events Professional 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • A first job in high school was working on the service support staff for a caterer
  • This job led to studying hospitality management at Colorado State University
  • After college, accepted a job at Inverness Hotel and Conference Center in Englewood and worked his way up from being a banquet server to catering and conference service manager
  • Joined the opening team for Halcyon in 2016 and over the past three years has been developing new meeting experiences for clients
  • Active with NACE Denver and has served as director of programming and on the membership committee

BEST THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
“When I think about why I wanted to have a career in the hospitality industry, I gravitated toward the interpersonal relationships that I am able to build with colleagues and clients. I also love a challenge and there is never a dull moment, nor are two days ever the same. I am also passionate about travel and being in the hospitality industry affords me the opportunity to enjoy both sides of the work.”

HOPES, DREAMS AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
“I really enjoy the all-hands-on-deck environment of hotel transitions and openings. I would love to continue developing my skill set in these areas and to build on my experience supporting hotels in need of assistance.” He adds, “As my career progresses, I want to stay in the neighborhood of independent/boutique hotels.”

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY
Porter recommends getting involved andstaying curious. “This is a bustling industry with a lot of extroverts. If you want to learn more about something, all you have to do is offer to help a busy person and learn what they do. Much of my professional development to date has come from mentors in the industry being thought partners and advocates as I navigate challenges and celebrate wins.”

WAYS THE INDUSTRY HAS EVOLVED
“What we say at Halcyon is that we like to ‘blur the lines between work and play.’ On the meeting and events side, groups are looking to incorporate unique local, off-site elements into their programs and stay true to the culture of Colorado. … It is exciting that event planners and clients are creating a balance between traditional conferences and what the city they are in has to offer.”

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Brian-Douglas Stanwood, Assistant Director of Sales
Visit Aurora
Best Supplier 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Employed in the Vermont banking industry
  • Traveled extensively with Up With People and worked in the organization’s Broomfield, Colorado office in various roles
  • Joined Colorado’s hospitality industry in 2000 and has worked for Holiday Inn Downtown, Renaissance Denver Stapleton, Hotel Monaco and Cheyenne Mountain Resort
  • In between, served as an executive meetings manager and convention sales manager for VISIT DENVER from 2003 to 2006
  • After a short stint back to New England working for The Brunswick Hotel & Tavern, returned to Colorado in late 2017, joined the Visit Aurora sales team
  • Current committee organizer for MPIRMC’s Project Angel Heart

BEST THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN THEMEETINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
“I love that each day and client is different and that our industry contributes so much toward our local economy. I cherish the lifetime relationships with both my clients and my supplier/industry peers that I am honored to call friends. What I learn from both my clients and supplier peers alike is invaluable to me!”

HOPES, DREAMS AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
“I wish for our industry to continue to grow and prosper and that our community and politicians continue to support and see the impact and value. Personally, I want to continue to grow, learn, evolve and constantly be challenged. I also want to be there as a mentor for our future youth entering this amazing industry.”

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY
“If you want pearls, you must be willing to get a little sand in your clam. Get involved early on and foster your connections and relationships. Go the extra mile in your role and become a ‘yes’ person. Keep your integrity in check, listen, be sincere and authentic, and find your passion. Mentor as you have been mentored.”

WAYS THE INDUSTRY HAS EVOLVED
“Technology is indeed our friend, but I also seethe potential of it taking the personal element of collaboration, relationships and content away. We have the opportunity and responsibility of finding this balance. Our travelers and attendees are also much savvier and expect more. The wowfactor bar continues to be challenged and is only expected to rise."

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Jenni Lietz, Owner
Wallflower Rentals & Decor
Up-and-Coming Supplier

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Started out at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver as a server and advanced into the sales and marketing office years later as a business development coordinator and then sales coordinator for Elway’s Downtown
  • After coordinating private dining events, moved into a sales manager role at Big Red F Restaurant Group and worked closely with restaurants to implement new processes and create a seamless operating system
  • Launched Wallflower Rentals & Décor, a small family owned and operated company based in Louisville, Colorado, two years ago from a home garage and primarily worked for a few venues
  • Grew clientele and now has employees assisting with the day-to-day operations and a large warehouse to help hold expanding rental inventory that includes glassware, farm tables and bulk chairs

BEST THINGS ABOUT WORKING IN THE MEETINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
“Being a part of the Colorado meetings and events industry offers the opportunity to work with unique local vendors and create really special collaborations. We love to use every interaction to connect with our clients and bring their vision to life while adding our special finishing touches.”

HOPES, DREAMS AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
“Initially, Wallflower Rentals & Décor began with a focus on weddings but as we continue to grow and branch out into the corporate market, we look forward to planning and executing large-scale events around the state. Our new inventory and warehouse space has allowed us to take on a variety of larger events, which has been so much fun!”

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE NEW TO THE INDUSTRY
“Be you, authentically you. Don’t look at competition as a threat and embrace the differences in how you can be the best for your client. And if you aren’t the best fit, don’t be afraid to share the love with your industry friends … there is enough to go around!”

WAYS THE INDUSTRY HAS EVOLVED
“Clients have come to expect more and standards have risen. We have to strive to provide a one-of-a-kind experience with outstanding venues. But no matter what changes, top-notch customer service remains the priority.”

 

 

Take note of these seven pros who are making their mark in the meetings and events industry. 

Jolene Ihle, Founder
IdeationMKT
Lifetime Achievement 

“I was 10 years old when I received my Muscular Dystrophy Carnival Kit in the mail. The box was filled with cool ideas and colorful materials to  support fundraising efforts. I was completely enthralled with the event planning process. … This experience was my jumpstart into events and I was hooked.”

 

Here's who has been crowned the winners and runners-up of the Minnesota Meetings + Events Best of 2020 readers' choice awards. Congratulations!  

Best Brewery/Cidery/Distillery/Winery with Event Space 
Surly Brewing Company 

 

Here's who has been crowned the winners and runners-up of the Colorado Meetings + Events Best of 2020 readers' choice awards. Congratulations!  

Best Brewery/Distillery/Winery with Event Space 
Bigsby's Folly Craft Winery & Restaurant